Sport is one of the few things in the world that can bring people—even enemies— together.
Fritz Polite, assistant professor in sport management and director of the new Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Diversity in Sport, became a believer in the power of sport during his many years of work and travel overseas. As manager of the Harlem Globetrotters’ world tour in 2000, Polite witnessed this power during a visit to Liberia. "When we came to town, the leaders of the armies signed a truce to stop fighting," he said.
Before this experience, Polite had already lived overseas for 18 years, mostly playing and coaching professional football and working for the military in Europe. It gave him a new, global perspective. "The world is ours. I want college students to learn as early as possible that we are all connected," Polite said. "Sport gives us that platform to discuss global issues. It is one of the few things that make people come together."
Polite practices what he preaches. This fall he taught one of the new freshman seminars called First Year Studies 129. His class topic was Leading in a Changing Global Environment, which discussed the social responsibilities of being a leader. The 129 classes were offered for the first time this fall to help boost student retention by offering opportunities to interact with some of UT’s most accomplished faculty in small-class settings.
Polite joined the Department of Exercise, Sport and Leisure Studies in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences in 2006.
After playing football for and graduating from Simpson College in Iowa, Polite tried out with several NFL teams but had to go to Europe to continue playing football. He later served and worked in the U.S. military and then coached football in Germany and Switzerland, jobs made easier because he speaks Ger-man. After earning his doctorate, he held several jobs including the Harlem Globetrotters position, working for Disney Sports Attractions and consulting for the National Football League.
Polite came to UT from the University of Central Florida, where he was associate director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which produces several highly publicized studies every year on hiring practices, graduation rates and race and gender issues in sport.
Building on Polite’s experience overseas and in sport, UT recently launched the Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Diversity in Sport (I-LEAD). Directed by Polite, I-LEAD provides training and research to meet the demands of the multi-billion-dollar global sport and leisure industry. He believes that proper training and outreach opportunities for all students—whether their careers will involve sports or not—will make them better leaders.
I-LEAD will offer speakers and workshops and lead community service projects for students regardless of their major.